April 23, 2003
It's funny in Kansas
Arts and Entertainment
Five stairways to the stars
ONE WAY OF knowing San Francisco by heart is to memorize the flattest routes of pedestrian travel, thereby avoiding the city's famous heart-stopping climbs. Another is to take to the hills. Outdoor stair-climbing beats the gym hands-down for scenic appeal, and traversing the hilly terrain by way of secret steps and stairways reveals a side of the city that's only discovered on foot. Where there is a hill, there is a stairway and no doubt an incredible view of our beauty by the bay at the top. There are stairway paths all over the city, but the Castro is home to dozens of the most stunning and charming ones.
1. Sanchez Street Stairway (Sanchez between 19th Street and Cumberland) At 19th Street and Sanchez, two tree-shaded entrances lead to a single stairway with cozy built-in benches where you can stop to catch your breath. The view of the Castro and the city beyond is worth the climb. And at the top you'll find a charming Dolores Heights neighborhood with more stairways and even more breathtaking sights.
2. Cumberland Passage (Cumberland between Church and Sanchez) Few people know about this hidden path joining Cumberland to Sanchez (at the top of the Sanchez stairway). Where Cumberland dead-ends off Church, a lovely hidden stairway leads up to a curved path hidden by huge succulents and foliage. Follow it through some overhanging trees and vines to a seemingly private sidewalk that runs past a tucked-away Victorian with a fenced-off veranda. The garden-lined sidewalk meets up with Sanchez Street. More stairways await in three directions just short walks away.
3. Liberty Hill Stairways (Sanchez between Liberty and 21st Street) A set of three stairways on Sanchez lead to the highest hill in the neighborhood. When you reach the top, the neighborhood below and the downtown skyline seem so far away it's hard to believe you're just a short walk above the Castro on one side and the Mission on the other. At the summit, on the corner of 21st Street and Sanchez, sits an English cottage-style house where one can imagine tiny fairies flitting through the garden terrace. According to Adah Bakalinksy, author of Stairway Walks in San Francisco, this area was once called "nanny goat hill" for the goats that grazed here.
4. 22nd Street Stairways (22nd Street between Castro, Collingwood, and Diamond) Beginning at Castro and 22nd Street and facing west, head along the right-hand side of 22nd, climb the stairway that's tucked away behind palms and tropical plants on the hill and retained by a high concrete wall. At the top, through the trees, is a wonderful view of Bernal Hill beyond. Cross the street bearing left to the turn in the road and follow the steps down at the right. Two sets of steps lead past houses down to a single stairway ending at Diamond Street. All day the sunlight filters softly through the tall, elegant eucalyptus trees that grow alongside the long, steep descent, dropping their leaves on the path and filling the air with a rich fragrance. If you head further down into the valley toward Twin Peaks and over a few blocks to 20th Street, you'll eventually reach the next stairway.
5. Douglass Street Steps (Douglass, between Seward and Corwin) In the heart of Eureka Valley is one of my favorite stairways. The view is not as exciting as some of the Dolores Heights climbs, but the walk is especially pleasant and leads to the little-known refuge Kite Hill Open Space. Beginning at Douglass and 20th Street, follow the steps curving up to a single long stair. A garden and tall trees line the route, and smaller paths split off, leading to apartments on the side. At the top is a view of Corona Heights and the city beyond. On a windy day the sound of chimes floats in the air. Turn right onto Corwin and pass the Butterfly Hill Community Garden, where local residents plant butterfly-attracting flowers and shrubs. The road finally dead-ends at Kite Hill, a small rocky outcrop where you can rest on a bench and enjoy a sweeping view of the Castro, Market Street, and the downtown skyline. In the late afternoon the sun finally dips behind Sutro Tower and Twin Peaks, and the tiny lights far below begin to twinkle as evening falls over the city.
For more information on S.F. stairway walks, check out Adah Bakalinsky's Stairway Walks in San Francisco (Wilderness Press); www.sisterbetty.org/stairways, where aficionado Sister Betty has devoted a portion of her personal site to documenting the city's stairways; and Stairways across San Francisco (www.perfectsites.com/Stairways/index.html), a tour service by Dennis Macheel, who offers full-day walking tours (not for the faint of heart) that tourists and residents alike will enjoy.
1. Balboa Theatre Free admission on birthday; $7.50 double feature. 3630 Balboa, S.F. (415) 221-8184, www.balboamovies.com.
2. Landmark Theatres $35 discount card, five admissions (cannot be used Fri.-Sat. or after 6 p.m.). Various San Francisco and East Bay locations. www.landmarktheatres.com.
3. Red Vic Movie House $20 punch card, four admissions. 1727 Haight, S.F. (415) 668-3994, www.redvicmoviehouse.com.
4. Parkway Theater Two-for-one Wednesdays. 1834 Park, Oakl. (510) 814-2400, www.picturepubpizza.com.
5. Roxie Cinema $22 discount card, five admissions. 3117 16th St., S.F. (415) 863-1087, www.roxie.com.
1. Common yellowthroat
2. Red-winged blackbird
3. Great blue heron
5. Western gull
6. Great egret
8. American kestrel
9. Brown pelican
10. Anna's hummingbird
11. Red-tailed hawk
12. Black phoebe
13. Western meadowlark
1. Weapon-Shaped (hip-hop) Two bands: Meanest Man Contest, Substance Abuse www.weapon-shaped.com
2. Six Degrees Records (world) Two bands: Bebel Gilberto, Celso Fonseca www.sixdegreesrecords.com
3. Fat Wreck Chords (hardcore, punk) Two bands: Avail, NOFX www.fatwreck.com
4. Magnetic Motorworks (quirky, intelligent) Two artists: Victor Krummenacher, Jonathan Segel www.magneticmotorworks.com
5. Slumberland Records (pop, moody) Two bands: the Aislers Set, Lorelei www.dropbeat.com/slrland
6. Cheetah's Records (rock, punk) Two bands: Nothing Cool, Suicide Doors www.cheetahsrecords.com
7. ABB Records (hip-hop) Two bands: 13, Dilated Peoples www.abbrecords.com
8. function 8 (trip-hop, progressive) Two bands: Jet Black Crayon, the Jazz Cannon www.function8.com
9. S.P.A.M. Records (geek core, punk) Two bands: the Blottos, the Duckbutters www.spamrecords.org
10. 3 Acre Floor Records (alternative, pop) Two bands: the Knit Separates, the Brave Bulls www.3acrefloor.com
11. Toyo Records (noise, rock) Two bands: Rubber o Cement, Zeek Shek www.toyorecords.com
12. Alternative Tentacles (rock, punk) Two bands: Black Kali Ma, Fleshies www.alternativetentacles.com
13. Drunkenfish Records (rock) Two bands: Atman, Roy Montgomery www.drunkenfishrecords.com
14. Arhoolie (country, Tejano) Two artists: Alice Stuart, Tony De La Rosa www.arhoolie.com
15. Eighth Note Records (pop, piano composers) Two artists: Garrin Benfields, Michael Rodriguez www.eighthnoterecords.com
16. Full Frame Records (rock, hip-hop) Two bands: the Capitol Records, TES www.fullframerecords.com
17. HighTone Records (country, rock) Two artists: Laura Minor, Dave Alvin www.hightone.com
18. Kamikaze Records (R&B, funk) Two artists: Noly, Happy Hour www.kamikazerecords.com
19. Lookout Records (rock, hardcore, punk) Two bands: the Queers, the Pattern www.lookoutrecords.com
20. Devil in the Woods Two artists: Kaito, Fiver www.devilinthewoods.com
21. Tigerbeat6 Records (noise, prog, hip-hop) Two bands: Gold Chains, Cex www.tigerbeat6.com
22. Revenge Records (eclectic, world) Two bands: Yemanje, Luella www.revengerecords.com
23. Subterranean Records (hardcore, industrial) Two bands: Helios Creed, Kathleen Yearwood www.subterranean.org
24. Six Weeks Records (punk, grind) Two bands: Destined for Assimilation, Striker www.sixweeksrecords.com
25. Badman Recording Co. (rock, moody) Two artists: Mark Kozelek, Hayden www.badmanrecordingco.com
26. Paris Caramel Records (indie, pop) Two bands: Bart Davenport, the Fairways www.pariscaramel.com
27. Radio Khartoum (electronic, pop) Two bands: Cessna, the Hepburns www.radiokhartoum.com
28. 625 (punk, thrash) Two bands: Lamico Di Martucci, Breakfast www.625thrash.com
29. The First Time Records (pop, rock) Two bands: the Junior Panthers, Ride www.tftrecords.com
30. Dreams by Degrees (electronic, pop) Two bands: Loquat, Odessa Chen www.dreamsbydegrees.com
1. Birds and Cars Bryant between 16th and 17th Streets, S.F.
2. Extinct Fifth Street between Folsom and Harrison, S.F.
3. Innercity-Home Sixth Street between Folsom and Howard, S.F.
4. No Time for Super Heroes Clarion Alley between Mission and Valencia, S.F. (in-progress collaboration with Aaron Noble)
5. One Tree Bryant at 10th Street, S.F.
6. Peace Kansas between 18th and 19th Streets, S.F. (collaboration with local youth)
7. Sky/Ground Third Street between Harrison and Mission, S.F. (in the process of being covered by a construction project)
8. Thinking of Balmy Alley SFO International Terminal, Gate G98, South San Francisco
9. Truth Market between Seventh and Eighth Streets, S.F.
10. Water Redstone Building lobby, 16th Street at Capp, S.F.
11. Still Innocent 10th Street and Center, Oakl. (collaboration with local youth group)
12. No Smoke Screens/No Color Lines 62nd Street at Herzog, Oakl. (collaboration with local youth)
13. Richmond Liberty Ferry Barrett between Marina and 18th Street, Richmond
1. Swing Session Swing lessons. Tues., 7 p.m., Broadway Studios, 435 Broadway, S.F. Cover $10, $15 with class. (415) 291-0333.
2. Café Cocomo Salsa lessons. Mon., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs. and Sat., 8 p.m., 650 Indiana, S.F. Cover and class $10 Thurs., $15 Sat. (415) 824-6910.
3. Ay Karamba! Salsa lessons. Tues., 7:45 p.m., Glas Kat, 520 Fourth St., S.F. Cover and class $8. (415) 495-6620.
4. Sundance Saloon Country dancing. Sun., 6 p.m., Space 550, 550 Barneveld, S.F. Cover and class $5. (415) 699-5764.
5. Milonga Argentine tango. Thurs., 7 p.m., Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, S.F. Cover $13, $15 with class. (415) 239-7002.
1. Café de la Presse 352 Grant, S.F. (415) 398-2680
2. Castro Smoke House 409 Castro, S.F. (415) 552-7411
3. Fog City News 455 Market, S.F. (415) 543-7400
4. Good News 3920 24th St., S.F. (415) 821-3694
5. Harold's Newsstand 454 Geary, S.F. (415) 441-2665
6. Juicy News 2453 Fillmore, S.F. (415) 441-3051
7. Nick's Newsstand Sansome and Market, S.F. (in front of Citicorp Center)
8. Wharfside News 514 Presidio, S.F. (415) 923-0955
1. Albera Brothers Global Electric Motor (ZEV). 2860 16th St., S.F. (415) 431-3892.
2. San Francisco Toyota Toyota Rav4 EV (electric, ZEV) and Toyota Prius (hybrid, SULEV). Geary Boulevard and Second Avenue, S.F. (415) 750-8300.
3. San Francisco Honda Honda Civic Hybrid (SULEV). 10 S. Van Ness, S.F. (415) 441-2000.
Their emission ratings: ZEV: Zero Emission Vehicle; Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle
1. Malcom Margolin's The Ohlone Way (Heyday Books, 2002). The tale of the people who lived here long before the white folks arrived.
2. Kevin J. Mullin's Let Justice Be Done (University of Nevada Press, 1989). Mullin, a retired S.F. police captain, challenges conventional wisdom including the work of noted historians like Kevin Starr and explains law and lawlessness in post-gold rush San Francisco.
3. Walton Bean's Boss Ruef's San Francisco: The Story of the Union Labor Party, Big Business, and the Graft Prosecution (UC Press, 1952). Great insight into turn-of-the-century politics and scandals.
4. Gary Brechin's Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin (UC Press, 1999). A history of San Francisco's oligarchy.
5. Curt Gentry's Frame Up: The Incredible Case of Tom Mooney and Warren Billings (W.W. Norton and Co., 1967). The amazing tale of how two radical labor leaders were framed for a 1916 bombing, this book cuts to the heart of how power worked, and works, in San Francisco.
6. Chester Hartman with Sarah Carnochan's City for Sale: The Transformation of San Francisco (UC Press, 2002). The definitive history of overdevelopment, corruption, and the Manhattanization of San Francisco in the post-WWII era.
Sure, this is a great town with beautiful architecture and breathtaking views, wonderful people, first-class restaurants, sourdough bread, blah, blah, blah. But let's not gloss over the truth: this place is also a magnet for sickos and over the years these 49 square miles have been home to a disproportionate number of gore-craving, body-dropping maniacs. Here's a brief rundown on a few of these charming characters a full accounting would be the size of a phone book and their haunts.
1. The Bristol Hotel This Tenderloin residential hotel at 56 Mason St. has played host to not one but two major-league wack-jobs. In 1985, AC/DC fan and serial killer Richard "Night Stalker" Ramirez bedded down at the hotel before allegedly shooting to death 66-year-old San Franciscan Peter Pan and wounding wife Alberta Pan. Because of legal complications, the case never went to trial, but Ramirez was eventually convicted of 13 other murders and now lives in a picturesque location just across the bay: San Quentin's death row. Would-be Andy Warhol assassin and SCUM Manifesto (SCUM = Society for Cutting Up Men) author Valerie Solanas spent her final days in the Bristol, where she died of emphysema in 1988.
2. 101 California St. Gian Luigi Ferri was a goofy-looking, heavily armed guy who knew how to hold a grudge. When he decided the law firm Pettit and Martin had given him bad legal advice his investment in a trailer park went south he walked into the firm's 34th-floor office in 1993 with a pair of TEC-9 machine pistols and a .45 and proceeded to unload 75 to 100 rounds. Body count: eight dead, not including Ferri, who killed himself before he could be captured.
3. 136 Lenox Way and 2400 block of 19th Avenue A former marine, Charles Ng, lived in a basement apartment in the quiet middle-class West Portal neighborhood during the mid 1980s, while his pal Leonard Lake, a Vietnam vet, resided nearby in a boarding house on the 2400 block of 19th Avenue. When the duo got popped shoplifting a vise from the South City Lumber and Supply Co. in South San Francisco, police quickly connected them to a string of unspeakably gruesome murders. Investigating a rural Calaveras County property where the two hung out, detectives found videotaped S-M scenes, a torture chamber, corpses, dismembered body parts, and 40 pounds of charred bone fragments implicating the men in an estimated 25 murders. Lake committed suicide shortly after he was arrested; Ng was convicted in 1999 of 11 killings.
4. 1859 Geary Blvd. Of all the scary people who've lived in this town, Jim Jones was undoubtedly the spookiest more than 20 years after his death, this fucking guy still sends the creepy meter off the scale. A cross between Hannibal Lecter and a charismatic televangelist, Jones was a lefty messiah (he claimed to be the reembodiment of both Vladimir Lenin and Jesus) who stressed a few simple messages: stop racial discrimination, love yer neighbor, the end is nigh. In the early days he ran his People's Temple out of this building on Geary now a post office and hobnobbed with liberal pols like Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, and George Moscone. By the late 1970s he'd moved his operation to a commune in the jungles of Guyana called Jonestown, where the end for Jones and most of his followers came in the form of a very large vat of cyanide-laced grape Kool-Aid. 914 people, many of them Bay Area expats, died there.
5. 753 Webster St. Even many true-crime buffs don't know about the Crawl Space Killers. The year was 1982. The victims, an entire family Ray and Angie Boggs; their one-year-old son, Ray Jr.; and their unborn second child. The Boggs clan were done in by their erstwhile friends, Wayne and Velma Henderson, who shot and strangled the family, stuffed their corpses into the crawl space under this four-unit apartment building, and took off with their money and pet parrot. Veteran homicide inspectors called to the scene were chilled.
6. 3898 Washington St. Infamous serial slayer the Zodiac Killer's only confirmed murder in San Francisco occurred at this Presidio Heights address in 1969. The Zodiac who is believed to have offed at least seven people and was never caught plugged 29-year-old cabbie Paul Stine once in the head with a 9mm and later sent the cops a swatch of Stine's bloody clothing. What a good sport.
1. Clipper Community Garden, atop Clipper Street at Cesar Chavez in Noe Valley, was the first community garden -- converted from a onetime farm -- and features spectacular views of downtown.
2. The Sunset Community Garden at 37th Avenue and Pacheco Street was the first victory garden in San Francisco.
3. Kale, mustard greens, and flowering perennials sprout from the top of the Downtown Golden Gate Shih-Yu Lang Central YMCA in a hydroponics rooftop garden.
4. Overlooking the bay in Upper Fort Mason (off Laguna, at Shafter Avenue and Pope Street) is the Fort Mason Community Garden, the city's largest, with 124 plots, a greenhouse providing seedlings for members, and a beautiful Zen garden on a hill.
6. Herbs, succulents, vegetables, and flowers climbing from cracks in a wall in a hilly park give North Beach's Michelangelo Community Garden a tranquil Mediterranean feel.
7. On quiet Dearborn Alley, between 17th and 18th Streets and Valencia and Guerrero, the Mission District's Dearborn Community Garden is a quiet haven made up of two building plots of land.
8. Potrero Hill Community Garden, on San Bruno at 20th Street, is a 25-year-old open organic garden sanctuary with expansive views clear to the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin. Gardeners cultivate nearly 50 active plots, and in a newly planted front garden, roses and lilacs grow among olive and fig trees.